Costs and Benefits

In rehab and at SMART meetings, we often did a Cost/Benefit Analysis worksheet. It is designed to make you really stop and think about the costs and benefits associated with substance abuse and with sobriety.

You are allowed to list benefits of using, such as “makes me feel good”, “helps me socialize”, or “reduces my anxiety”. As part of the exercise, you learn which benefits are short term, and which are long term. And these are most certainly short term. Very short term in some cases.

Long term benefits often fall on the side of sobriety. “Better health”, “improved relationships”, “clearer thinking”, “saving money”, “meeting career goals.” The exercise helps you realize that you stand to benefit from sobriety much more than continuing down the path of using.

For this week, I chose the safe coping strategy:

Notice the cost. What is the price of substance abuse in your life?

This safe coping strategy doesn’t mean the literal monetary cost and price of substance abuse, although that is not to be forgotten. For many addicts, money that you don’t really have to spend is being spent to maintain your habit. And some drugs of choice are very expensive. I met a man in one of my SMART groups who was young, bright, talented, was making 6 figures a year, and blew it all on heroin and illegal prescription drugs. I mean all. He ended up living in his parents’ basement and blew all his credibility at his high-powered job. His habit caused him to lose all of his monetary wealth, as well as many other things.

But the other costs need to be focused on as well. The man in my description lost his career. He lost possessions, such as an expensive car that he treasured. He lost his apartment. He sold many of his prized possessions to pay for drugs, like stereo equipment, guitars, televisions, bicycles, and much more.

But, it even stems further than the physical items in our lives. We also lose relationships. We lose trust in our loved ones and acquaintances. We lose our self-esteem. We lose happiness and peace of mind.

Some people lose their freedom. After a DUI, their driving is restricted. I’ve heard stories from people who have gotten more than one DUI and have had to spend time in jail, and have no vehicle as a result. And some people lose the unimaginable. In a drunk or high driving incident, they may end up killing a friend, a family member, or even themselves.

There are real costs when it comes to dealing with an addiction. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you can come to your senses and achieve sobriety before you lose too much. We all lose something in the end, but the earlier you choose to embrace sobriety, the less you stand to lose.

The next time you feel an urge or craving, no matter how small, really stop and consider your consequences. What would a stumble like that cost you? Even if you think no one will ever know. Maybe you’re right. Chances are you’re not. Your loved ones care enough about you to notice. But, let’s say no one will ever know. The truth is, you will know. There is cost associated with that. Not only are you saying your opinion doesn’t count and doesn’t matter, but after you’ve used, you will feel terribly about yourself. Wouldn’t you rather go on being proud of yourself and your sobriety? Wouldn’t that feel so much better?

Try to remember how it used to feel when you used. When you knew you shouldn’t, but you did anyway. And someone would find out and you’d feel terrible for letting them down. You carried such heavy amounts of guilt and shame around with you as a result. Or you walked on eggshells and were terribly paranoid all the time, trying to hide your habit. Those feelings take huge tolls on your emotional health. And that is a cost.

Doesn’t it feel so much better to have nothing to hide? To show that you can be trusted again? To know you’re doing right by your body? There is no cost to doing the right thing, only benefits. Sobriety gives you a second chance to earn back all those things you lost while using. To live a full life, peaceful and serene.